Monday, August 29, 2016

Hume's True Scepticism (NDPR Review)

Hume's True Scepticism
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2016.08.33 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Donald C. Ainslie, Hume's True Scepticism, Oxford University Press, 2015, 286pp., $70.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780199593866.
Reviewed by Frederick F. Schmitt, Indiana University
This highly original, beautifully crafted book proposes an interpretation of Hume's treatment of skepticism in Part 4 of Book 1 of A Treatise of Human Nature. There have long been competing interpretations of Hume on skepticism -- skeptical, epistemological naturalist, and dialectical interpretations. Donald C. Ainslie offers an alternative "philosophical" interpretation, according to which the doubts that Hume displays about reason and the belief in body in Part 4 of Book 1 are meant to cast doubt, not on everyday beliefs about causes or bodies (as the skeptical interpretation holds), but on philosophical reflection itself. Philosophical reflection interferes with the operation of our natural propensities, giving rise to doubts that philosophical reflection itself cannot answer. At the same time, this phenomenon of "reflective interference" (p....

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Imagining Other Earths

"Are we alone?" A Princeton University Coursera class allows one to speculate scientifically about that question, HERE.  There is also a class from UPenn on "Plato & His Predecessors" HERE that, while unrelated, looks interesting.

I can't remember if these are free or not (many times they are) but usually you can find some gems.  I finished a Coursera course in "Philosophy of Mathematics" and it was very helpful for my own research. It was of course very interesting and fun to accomplish.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Course Workload Estimator

From Rice University's Center for Teaching Excellence.  Nor really sure how accurate this is, but one may give it a try.  Link HERE.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


"Prometheanism and Rationalism" (post by Deontologistics blog)

Prometheanism and Rationalism
// Deontologistics

Here is the video for my talk 'Prometheanism and Rationalism', which was given at Goldsmiths courtesy of Simon O'Sullivan and the Visual Cultures department in May. The same talk was given the previous week at the Dutch Art Institute's Prometheanism 2.0 event, organised by Bassam El Baroni, alongside Patricia Reed, Yuk Hui, and Inigo Wilkins. The video for the DAI version is available here. However, as is often the case, I think the second version is better.

Here is the abstract:
The aim of this talk is to articulate and defend the connection between contemporary forms of prometheanism and rationalism. It will begin by defining prometheanism through its opposition to political liberalism and normative naturalism, as developed by the projects of left-accelerationism and xenofeminism. It will then show how the success of these oppositions is premised upon philosophical rationalism, insofar as it supplies the needed accounts of positive freedom and normative autonomy, and articulate the problems faced by alternatives to liberalism and naturalism that reject these conceptual resources. The remainder of the talk will be devoted to elaborating the account of rational agency through which these concepts should be understood. Positively, it will aim to explain what reason is, giving a minimalistic picture of the capacities its exercise involves. Negatively, it will aim to explain what reason is not, addressing some common objections to rationalism based on misunderstanding its relation to affect, embodiment, collectivity, and other issues.
I'm quite pleased with the talk overall. For those who would like to read the first half, it is available in written form here. If you're having difficult reading the slides, they're available here. It's also worth pointing out that this makes a good companion to my paper 'The Reformatting of Homo Sapiens' (video), whose analysis of myth it borrows. Furthermore, the explanation of contemporary rationalism at the end has been developed substantially in my work on Computational Kantianism, which I'll be sharing here eventually.
Finally, it's worth noting that my positive thoughts on what is now more properly called Left-Accelerationism (L#A) haven't been widely available till now. This is despite the fact that I organised the second Accelerationism Workshop at Goldsmiths, was involved in putting together #ACCELERATE: The Accelerationism Reader, and, weirdly, that my tumblr response to Malcom Harris's confused review of the reader – 'So, Accelerationism, what's all that about?' – which does it's best to diagnose the usual errors in usage and explain the left/right distinction, is the first reference on the accelerationism wikipedia page. This talk doesn't cover everything I have to say about the matter, and there's still some controversy about whether the term is salvageable, given the aforementioned confusions, but it's nice to have something people can refer to.


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Friday, August 19, 2016

Speculative Solution: Quentin Meillassoux and Florian Hecker Talk Hyperchaos (interview)

HERE. Also see a very interesting post on philosophical science fiction, HERE.  The Meillassoux interview is dated although it is probably my favorite one.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The History of Beyng (NDPR review)

The History of Beyng
// Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews // News

2016.08.17 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Martin Heidegger, The History of Beyng, William McNeill and Jeffrey Powell (trs.), Indiana University Press, 2015, 208pp., $45.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780253018144.
Reviewed by Mark A. Wrathall, University of California, Riverside
This volume -- a new translation of volume 69 of the Gesamtausgabe or "Complete Edition" of Heidegger's work -- consists of two distinct parts: the manuscript of an incomplete and unpublished treatise on "The History of Beyng," and the manuscript of a short (but, to all appearances, more complete) unpublished treatise entitled "Κοινόν: Out of the History of Beyng." The two manuscripts, composed between 1938 and 1940, are closely related in terms of thematic content. In these manuscripts, we get an intimate glimpse into the development of Heidegger's account of the history of metaphysics by bringing it to bear on contemporary events. The historical phenomena that form the particular focus of Heidegger's analysis include the outbreak of the Second World War and the rise of...

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"Philosophy for Beginners: A Comparative Reading of Fichte's Crystal Clear Public Report on the True Nature of the Latest Philosophy and Schelling's Lectures on the Method of University Study"

Breazeale srikes again.  HERE. Having been a fan of his work on Fichte for years, After Nature readers may want to check out the rest of Breazeal's academia page.

See also information on the 5th Bonn Summer School, "The Idealism of German Idealism," HERE. This is actually not this current year's summer school but the year prior's.  It looks more interesting (for me, at least) as this year's is about "The Hermeneutics of Suspicion."

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Schelling's reading of the Timaeus: On Plato's "invisible matter"

Something I've been thinking about having been inspired by two books - Iain Grant's Philosophies of Nature After Schelling and the more recent The Barbarian Principle edited by Jason Wirth and Patrick Burke, is how Schelling's transcendental naturephilosophy picks up upon Plato's notion of invisible matter in the Timaeus.

Essentially Schelling reveals how a distinction might be made, at least in one reading of that Plato text, between visible and invisible matter.  To be more precise, only matter that has taken form becomes ordered and thereby visible.  On the other hand, "matter" is distinct as an invisible (i.e. insensible) "element" that determines "matter as form."

Schelling points out how the elements, "matter", or perhaps "materials," are invisible (insensible) because they have not yet acquired form by way of the divine understanding. Once engendered by the activity of the understanding (the Idea) they obtain form and then congeal into visible nature according to their "ultimate empirical constitution."  It is through human understanding that the elements appear to the philosopher, though not through any empirical phenomenal appearance or representation, but rather through intellectual intuition alone - the "true organ of philosophy." Intellectual intuition is for Schelling the highest activity of any transcendental philosophy, exhibited for example in conducting a speculative physics of nature or by enacting mathematical and logical philosophy, particularly through abductive (not deductive) reasoning.  This is contrary to Aristotle's thinking about the relationship between matter and form which is both empirical and inductive. Against Aristotle's view of matter, Schelling instead, in agreement with Plato's Timaeus, invokes a Platonic physics of the Idea, writing that any object of nature begins "in invisible and shapeless form - all receptive - but partaking somehow of the intelligible."  In this way Plato's "invisible materialism" is responsible for material substances taking on the form that they do - rendered by, but not due to, the activity of intelligence: a "divine reasoning" available to the human within speculative philosophy (thus in this sense reasoning is "in-human" as much as it is "extrahuman").  The powers of insensible matter, the elemental at the base of visible material being, is therefore responsible for any determinate empirical and singular character filling out the activity of a respective form. As Schelling tells us, this power is "base" in its being One despite its infinite distribution throughout many. Thus a "power" ontology where through decomposition (the literal self de-composing of the Absolute) the Absolute's basal becoming fragments and multiplies, proliferating the real and the visible matter of it. Here it is important to note that despite a plurality of materials in which this activity is found there is still only one basal condition of activity, and so it may be better to speak of "ground" rather than "grounds," "power" rather than "powers." Or in the words of Plato, other than being One, Being *is* power. (Here I must note that if we follow Plato in the Sophist fully and state that there is only power where there are things, then still, power must be of a general type - a category - that despite its being in things is not partitioned in its own universal integrity according to those things being its consequence.  This is to say that, if we say there are as many powers as there are things, then what activity is common to these things despite their multiplicity?)

This is all fitting considering it is Schelling's goal to provide a reading of Plato as a "one-world theorist."  Finding duplicity in unity between real and ideal, there is only one "nature" for Schelling, and in the Timaeus an aesthetic materialism finds its development through the concept of insensible or invisible matter.  Grant picks up on this in his Philosophies of Nature After Schelling book, as does"Schelling on Plato's Timaeus" in the Barbarian Principle.  (An introduction to that may be found HERE).

Concerning novel readings of Plato, see also After Nature posts "Dewey and the Ancients + Schelling's 1794 Commentary on the Timaeus" HERE.  Also "The Materialist Tradition in Ancient Greek Aesthetics" HERE, and "Plato on Beauty: Was He Right?" HERE.

As an aside,  I find THIS SEP entry on Plato's aesthetics helpful when thinking about Plato's materialism.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Review of A Philosophy of Sacred Nature

Review of A Philosophy of Sacred Nature written by Robert King in Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy Vol. 52, No. 1 (Winter 2016): 114-118.  HERE.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

quote of the day

F.W.J. Schelling (1775-1854)
"If our spirit did not involve a form of knowledge completely independent of all subjectivity and no longer the knowledge of the subject as subject but a knowledge of that which exists in strict autonomy (i.e., of the unconditionally One), we would indeed be forced to abandon philosophy altogether; our entire thinking and knowing would but render us forever trapped within the sphere of subjectivity, and we would have to consider and adopt the results of Kant's and Fichte's philosophy as the sole possible ones."

- F.W.J. Schelling, 1804

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

"Clear the Way for More Good Teachers" (Chronicle of Higher Ed article written by Doug Anderson)

An excellent read, and definitely worth reading through the whole way.  Some particularly good parts, though:
Higher education has become an industry of meeting-holders whose task is to "solve" problems — real or imagined. And in my tenure as a teacher at three different colleges, the actual problems in educating our young people and older students have deepened, while the number of people hired — not to teach but to hold meetings to solve problems — has increased significantly. Every new problem creates a new job for an administrative fixer. 
I offer a simple hypothesis in response: Many of our problems — retention, class attendance, educational success, student happiness and well-being, faculty morale — might be ameliorated by ratcheting down the bureaucratic mechanisms and meetings and hiring an army of good teachers. If we replaced half of our administrative staff with classroom teachers, we might actually get a majority of our classes back to 20 or fewer students per teacher. This would be an environment in which teachers and students actually knew each other.
The teachers in this experiment must be free to teach in their own way — the curriculum should be generic enough so that they can use their individual talents to achieve the goals of the course. Additionally, they should be allowed to teach, and be rewarded for doing it well. Teachers are not people who are great at and consumed by research and happen to appear in a classroom. Good teaching and research are not exclusive, but they are also not automatic companions. Teaching is an art and a craft, talent and practice; it is not something that just anyone can be good at. It is utterly confounding to me that people do not recognize this, despite the fact that pretty much anyone who has been a student can tell the difference between their best and worst teachers.
Just one college should cut its administrative staff in half and hire an army of good teachers and see what 10 years of such an experiment might yield. The teachers are available — the so-called business model of education has been a disaster and has left us with more qualified teachers than jobs. It is time to see what serious, hard-core teaching can do for a college — and its students.
As an aside, Anderson was the director of my doctoral dissertation.  He has since moved on from Southern Illinois University Carbondale to join the University of North Texas, from concentrating on Peirce to concentrating on environmental philosophy and the philosophy of nature (hmmm, sound familiar?) Anderson has a remarkably clear way of writing which reads enjoyably and well.

Link to the full article HERE.  Pointer to Charles Klayman for the pointer to both the article and letting me know about Anderson's move.

"In praise of Dewey" (Aeon article)

Aeon article discussing the importance of Dewey's Democracy and Education (1916) for the attempt to answer the question, "How should children be educated in democratic societies?"

Link HERE.

Monday, August 8, 2016

quote of the day

Ray Brassier

“I consider myself an idealist, opposed to a materialist, as I insist on the need to preserve the relative autonomy of thinking, and the cogency and the consistency of thinking, and of conceptual rationality, precisely in order to be able to adjudicate the relationship between thinking and reality, between theory and practice, and also it’s an enabling condition for practice. In other words, if you try to fuse thought into material reality indiscriminately, I think that leads to an impotent short-circuit. So I would insist on defending the representational structures that are simply attacked… it’s a caricature of representation that’s being attacked, it’s a straw man. Representation here, and theoretical representation in particular, is a straw man.

I want to defend the imperatives of conceptualization, and even a kind of dialectics, as although I agree with what Nick [Land] says about the way in which death is a marker for real identity of matter itself, the point is that you should never confuse the symbolic marker for the thing in itself. You need a much more careful and subtle articulation of those terms–actually, between zero, one, and two–to explain the autonomy of thought and rationality and of thinking. Not to put too fine a point on it, so that you can maintain and generate a locus of rational agency. In other words, keep a space of subjectivation open that provides a prism for practical incision, a point of insertion. And that has to be done, and I think this involves re-examining the legacy of Hegel, and of Hegelianism. In other words, to maintain a kind of conceptual rationality that necessitates transformation at the level of practical existence. It requires a lot of theoretical work to do this. I would insist on the need to preserve the autonomy of rationality as something that allows you to intervene, to cut, in the continuity."

– Ray Brassier

Friday, August 5, 2016

the materialist tradition in ancient Greek aesthetics

The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece
// Aesthetics Today

I have been reading James L. Porter's The Origins of Aesthetic Thought in Ancient Greece:  Matter, Sensation, and Experience.Cambridge U. Press, 2010.  This is an immensely important book both for everyday aesthetics and for aesthetics in general.  Porter is in the Classics Department at UC Irvine and would probably be off the radar for most philosophers who do aesthetics and philosophy of art, although he also has written an interesting book about Nietzsche's philosophy of art.  The intended audience for The Origins must be exclusively classicists since Porter regularly uses Greek without be sure to have your Greek alphabet with you as you read.  Fortunately, most Greek quotes are translated into English.  The primary importance of this book for aestheticians is made clear from the beginning:  no similar work has ever been written on the materialist tradition in ancient Greek aesthetics.   Porter develops the idea of a counter tradition to that of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle (the idealist tradition) which he carefully recovers from every source possible including presocratic fragments, Hellenistic testimonia, ancillary fields, and archaeological evidence.  One side effect of this work is to put to rest the common view that the ancient Greeks did not even have anything like an aesthetic theory.  More important in terms of the project of everyday aesthetics is that this book emphasizes the connection between aesthetics and sensuous experience.  A result of this approach to the classical sources is to bring aesthetics back to a continuity between everyday aesthetics and art aesthetics.  It is not surprising then that John Dewey's aesthetic theory is an important inspiration for this effort.  "Dewey's book articulates what will in fact be one of the central theses of the present study": in particular he agrees with Dewey that there are no fine arts that can be cut off from utilitarian arts or from everyday life. (36)  It is also noteworthy that Porter is aware of the implications of his study for everyday aesthetics as he mentions Yuriko Saito's seminal work prominently in the last paragraph of the book.  Porter also has some really interesting things to say about the concept of the sublime which, surprisingly, he traces back to a materialist aesthetic to be found in the Presocratics.  Another important aspect of his book is a reconstruction of the history of ancient Greek aesthetics, pushing it back to the Presocratics (although strangely neglecting the Pythagorean tradition, although perhaps this is because that tradition is more allied with the Platonic idealists) covering such figures as Democritus, Protagoras, and Gorgias especially.  If you care about aesthetics, the history of aesthetics or everyday aesthetics, read this book.  At least get your library to order it:  it is expensive and I was only able to read it by constantly reordering it through interlibrary loan.


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NDPR review - Merleau-Ponty and the Art of Perception

NDPR review HERE.

Duane H. Davis and William S. Hamrick (eds.), Merleau-Ponty and the Art of Perception, SUNY Press, 2016, 309pp., $95.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781438459592.
Reviewed by Keith Whitmoyer, Pace University

This volume strives to take this injunction seriously by bringing together contributions that challenge the boundary between what we might consider the "inside" and "outside" of thinking. Here, the task of thinking with and through Merleau-Ponty's writings is taken up by philosophers and non-philosophers, some who have worked closely with Merleau-Ponty's texts and have specific training in the history of philosophy, and others who approach his thought from a vantage point outside of that closeness. The result is a collection that sees the his writings and what is expressed in them from the often restricted point of view of the specialist, burdened by the weight of tradition and its assumptions, as well as an intimacy and proximity that often obscures one's point of view. But the collection also examines his body of work from a multiplicity of angles and interpolates frictions and tensions alongside what otherwise may have struck the reader as "obvious."

NDPR review - Diagrammatic Immanence: Category Theory and Philosophy

Rocco Gangle's book on relational immanence in Peirce, Deleuze, Spinoza, and  category theory reviewed at NDPR, HERE..

Rocco Gangle, Diagrammatic Immanence: Category Theory and Philosophy, Edinburgh University Press, 2016, 256pp., $132.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781474404174.
Reviewed by Jean-Pierre Marquis, Université de Montréal

In this book, Rocco Gangle attempts to weave together three threads: an interpretation of immanence in Spinoza, Pierce and Deleuze, the construction of a model of ontology on diagrammatic relations and the introduction of the fundamental concepts of category theory to philosophers. The second and third threads are in fact, even according to Gangle, already interlaced. The book's six chapters exhibit the pattern of the tapestry: they alternate between philosophical discussions surrounding relational immanence and the introduction and discussion of the basic notions of category theory, sketching the model of an ontology of relational immanence at the same time

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Schelling SEP entry updated (SEP entry update)

By Andrew Bowie. His Schelling book was among the first introductory secondary literature sources I consulted during my dissertation writing on Peirce, Schelling, and Heidegger.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling
// Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[Revised entry by Andrew Bowie on August 4, 2016. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775 - 1854) is, along with J.G. Fichte and G.W.F. Hegel, one of the three most influential thinkers in the tradition of 'German Idealism'. Although he is often regarded as a philosophical Proteus who changed his conception so radically and so often that it is hard to attribute one clear philosophical conception to him, Schelling was in fact often an impressively rigorous logical thinker. In the era during which Schelling was writing, so much was changing in philosophy that a...

James Williams Process Philosophy of Signs

"Williams develops this new process philosophy of signs through a formal model, in contrast to earlier structuralist definitions. He draws on the philosophies of Deleuze and Whitehead, criticises earlier work on the sign in biology by Jakob von Uexküll, and connects to contemporary work on process in the philosophy of biology by John Dupré."

NDPR Review of Williams' A Process Philosophy of Signs HERE, also many good papers available on Deleuze by Williams at his website HERE.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Avenessian's Metanoia

Table of contents for Armen Avanessian's forthcoming book, Metanoia. Great to see inclusion of more Peirce, something of an increasing trend. I plan to use Avanessian's notion of postcontemporary meaning that "the past is over" in my own forthcoming ms which is still under construction. I also like his idea of Peircean abduction as poietic procedure. This looks very interesting!

quote of the day

"Speculative realism is an appellation designating in itself nothing important but with which I have become associated.  It does not quite correspond to my enterprise since it also comprises the option that I seek to counter."

- Quentin Meillassoux

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Infinity, Cosmos, and Panentheism in Nicholas of Cusa" (Reflections on a post from Imago Futura blog + a great number of links)

 The world has its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere, for its circumference and center is God, who is everywhere and nowhere. - Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464)

Austin Roberts / Imago Future blog has an interesting post up introducing Nicholas of Cusa for those who are unfamiliar with him, HERE. It's similar in nature to my "philosopher profile" posts that I used to do (I only ever covered Paul Weiss, Nicholas Rescher, and with the help of Bryan from Speculum Criticum blog, Justus Buchler.  In the future - if ever time I'd certainly like to do John William Miller, Wilfred Sellars, and perhaps Brand Blanshard). But Austin's post is a really good read.  So do check it out.

The main thought that I had from reading his post was just how important the concept of infinity is to panentheism. This plays out not only in Cusa, but in the likes of Plato, Schelling, Peirce, Hegel, Hartshorne, Whitehead, Emerson, James, and Coleridge, to name but only a few.  With respect to Scholastic (classical) metaphysical theology one may wish to consult John Scottus Eriugena (one of my favorite Medieval philosophers in addition to Duns Scotus) or in same vein but from the twentieth century and with a Heideggerean-Schellingean twist, the Jesuit philosophical-theologian Erich Przywara and his (finally translated and published) Analogia Entis: Metaphysics - Original Structure and Universal Rhythm.

Regarding panentheism, there really are two books essential for learning that term's meaning.  The first is Philosophers Speak of God edited by Reese and Hartshorne.  This book is pretty much the gold standard for understanding the logically possible varieties of pantheism and panentheism and provides a detailed history.  The second is Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers - From Plato to the Present by John W. Cooper.  This is abit less technical but still very good because it is for the generalist and can be informative as an introduction.

Some penultimate statements of the panentheistic viewpoint would of course be Whitehead's Process and Reality, Hartshorne's The Divine Relativity, Schelling's Ages of the World, or less known, Samuel Alexander's Space, Time, and Deity. Even Plato's Timaeus has panentheistic elements (see the book Plato's Cosmology for example) which essentially sets stage.

The term “panenetheism” literally means “all-in-God-ism,” or the Greek-English translation of the German term Allingottlehere, the doctrine that “all is in God.” Karl Krause introduced the term to update and describe the philosophies of Schleiermacher, Schelling, and Hegel.

Later, “panentheism” came into common usage in the twentieth-century and was popularized by Hartshorne to describe his own philosophy, but also that of Whitehead's. Process philosophers usually take panentheism to mean, as Michael Raposa has put it in describing Peirce's God (and also Schelling's):
"One who views the world as being included in but not exhaustive of the divine reality. Such a view neither undermines the doctrine of creation nor collapses the distinction between God and the universe."
The panentheistic viewpoint is one main pillar in my ecotheological view as to how all of cosmos can be found sacred, whether the smallest of seed or the most distant star.  It supports a deanthropocentric view of divine reality in that, if God is "everywhere and nowhere," then no one species or form of existence is center.  All is equally non-center given the nature of the infinite, yet center in axiological value both in depth and breadth. I do not see this as a "leveling" down of all things human but only a "bringing up" to the same level of value and importance whatever has achieved being - human and nonhuman alike.  From an ecotheological perspective this enables one to consider the reality of sacredness for plant and non-human animal as well.  Many years ago I hinted to this in my post HERE "Do Animals Grieve?" (from October 2011, which still seems to be a very popular post all of these years later, initially linked by Graham Harman). One might also see my more recent post "Animal Theology," HERE.

In considering infinity but also with respect to the logic of theism a few years ago I ran a reading group that we decided to call "Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity."  Two very helpful books for that were A.W. Moore's The Infinite and the more analytical Philosophical Perspectives on Infinity by Graham Oppy. I'd also recommend the fantastic text The Logic of Theism and THIS MP3 lecture (24MB) by Kevin Staley (Saint Anselm College) on unifying classical and neo-classical accounts of divinity, including perfection and infinity, which mentions Hartshorne in connection to Cusa.

If readers of my blog are interested to read After Nature posts with similar content to that of Austin's post on Cusa, please see the below which discuss infinity and panentheism in some measure or another: